How Antonio Brown trade changed Raiders' plan for NFL free agency

How Antonio Brown trade changed Raiders' plan for NFL free agency

ALAMEDA – Raiders general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden had been studying this year’s NFL free-agent class for weeks, rarely leaving the building other than to eat or sleep.

Owner Mark Davis invited his chief decision makers and their wives to an event in Las Vegas last weekend, and Gruden suggested they accept.

“I was excited to get Mike out of the building,” Gruden said Wednesday. “We went to Las Vegas and it was a great event with Mike, Mandy Mayock, my wife Cindy and I and it was supposed to be a double date. Instead, we dated Drew Rosenhaus and Antonio Brown.”

The figurative swap happened because Pittsburgh’s deal to send mercurial receiver Antonio Brown to Buffalo fell through Thursday night. There were some contract hang-ups there, and suddenly Brown’s trade value went down.

The Raiders couldn’t meet Pittsburgh’s original asking price, but they met a new one that sends a third-round pick and a fifth-rounder to Pittsburgh for Brown, who in turn got $50 million over three years with $30 million guaranteed.

Mayock said the Raiders didn’t get involved in the Antonio Brown sweepstakes until Friday, the day before the deal was consummated. They had thought about it, but weren’t willing to jump into trade talks requiring one of their four NFL draft picks in the top 35 overall.

Then the price went down, and Mayock and Gruden discussed a realistic possibility that would turn their free-agency plan on its ear.

“The wild card in our planning was the understanding that Antonio Brown might be available,” Mayock said during Brown’s introductory press conference. “When, all of a sudden, we realized we might have an opportunity to compete for his services, it changed everything.

"When Jon and I had the conversation in Las Vegas about the chance to trade for Antonio Brown, there was no hesitation. Both of us thought his play spoke for itself, and we thought it would be important for the locker room and energy around the building.”

His on-field presence doesn’t hurt. Getting a four-time first-team All-Pro in the pattern was worth the extra funds required to secure his services through 2021, even if it meant the Raiders couldn’t go after all of their targets.

They still landed several players in their prime, all to contracts averaging eight figures per year. Antonio Brown came first, with offensive tackle Trent Brown, defensive back Lamarcus Joyner and receiver Tyrell Williams, respectively, after that.

The Raiders aren’t done. Expect a veteran, second-tier edge rusher coming down the pike in time, with another cornerback remaining a possibility. Then there’s the matter of securing their own, especially running backs Marshawn Lynch (if he wants to return) and/or Doug Martin. The Raiders are monitoring tight end Jared Cook’s market, though it’s hard to imagine him coming back with a visit to New Orleans Thursday and interest from the Patriots.

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The Raiders are still right with the salary cap. Without knowing Brown’s contract structure, the Raiders have an estimated $20 million in cap space, with half that devoted to the draft pool. Released players could create more space, as the Raiders adjust now that Brown’s in the fold. There have been reports the Raiders have a cashflow problem, recent signings refute such strong assertions. Mayock and Gruden still have to spend within their means.

“We have nowhere near an unlimited budget,” Mayock said. “The curveball that came out of nowhere was Antonio. What is comes down to is this: you’ve got a finite number of dollars; how do you want to spend them? When he became available, potentially, to us, we had to re-take that sheet of paper out and reanalyze how many players we could successfully chase or not. He was the trigger to the rest of what we did.

"I think, hindsight will be 20/20 a year from now, but we feel we upgraded the Raiders with big signings and we’re excited to keep working on it.”

NFL free agency: Raiders target George Iloka agrees to Cowboys contract


NFL free agency: Raiders target George Iloka agrees to Cowboys contract

The Raiders added one former Bengals defender earlier this week. They were not able to add another.

Safety George Iloka, who reportedly visited the Raiders earlier in the week, has agreed to a one-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys.

The team announced the deal on Saturday.

The Raiders reunited linebacker Vontaze Burfict with defensive coordinator Paul Guenther on Tuesday, and tried to do the same with Iloka, who spent the first six seasons of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals. The 28-year-old spent the 2018 season with the Minnesota Vikings.

Missing out on Iloka isn't the worst thing in the world for the Raiders. They addressed the safety position over the last week with the additions of Lamarcus Joyner and Curtis Riley.

NFL free agency: Raiders sign QB Mike Glennon to back up Derek Carr


NFL free agency: Raiders sign QB Mike Glennon to back up Derek Carr

The Raiders wanted an experienced backup quarterback behind Derek Carr, and got one Friday by signing Mike Glennon.

Now they hope he never plays. It’s still a vital role in meeting rooms and on-the-field, should an emergency arise on game day. Young bucks can get caught in the headlights. Veterans won’t be as good as the starter, but can generally function better being inserted into a game without many practice reps.

He has hopped into action during five seasons and has 22 starts, meaning he can handle short-relief or a stretch as the starter.

That calms some fan's nerves after the Raiders released AJ McCarron, who has already signed with the Houston Texans, leaving Nathan Peterman as the only non-Carr quarterback on the roster.

Glennon steps into the No. 2 slot having completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 5,107 yards and 35 touchdowns with 20 interceptions over five seasons.

Peterman is still with the Raiders on a futures contract, and is the No. 3 guy at the moment.

Many will look at the signing and wonder if it impacts the possibility of drafting a quarterback next month. It’s hard to rule anything out, but the disciplined choice would be to address the pass rush early and often in the 2019 NFL Draft, though a quarterback could get taken later in the selection process.

But…having Glennon on the roster won’t prohibit the Raiders from taking Kyler Murray or Dwayne Haskins. Would the Raiders eliminate the prospect of taking Quinnen Williams because interior pass rushers P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst were drafted last year? Absolutely not.

A edge rusher is the team’s most pressing need and must be addressed with quality and quantity before the season starts.

The Raiders don’t have to take a quarterback now in the draft, and adding Glennon takes the pressure off the demand to get another one down the line. Glennon should be viewed as a reliable backup who can step into service if Carr isn’t available.